Many golf fans spent much of their Sunday afternoon trying to figure who in the world Victor Dubuisson was, and how he could possibly be taking on Jason Day for the WGC-Accenture Match Play title.
Even as the final match progressed, no one seemed to believe that this 23-year-old Frenchman had any chance to win in his first ever World Golf Championship appearance.
When Day was two holes up with two to play and both players hit their approach shots on the 17th hole to within 20 feet of the pin, CBS began flashing its sponsors across the screen as if it were preparing to go off the air in just moments.
This was going on while Ian Baker-Finch—who also happens to be a close friend of fellow Australian Day—was talking as if Day had already sunk his putt and won the title. If only these men knew what was about to transpire over the next hour-and-a-half of play.
Day missed his putt on the 17th hole, while Dubuisson made his, and the two competitors went to the 18th hole with Day leading by one hole.
Dubuisson then went on to win the 18th hole with a miraculous up-and-down par save from the greenside bunker, while Day was unable to convert on his 10-foot par putt that would have closed out the match.
This match had already taken somewhat of a turn to the bizarre with Day losing a 2-up lead with two to play, but no one in their wildest dreams could have foreseen what was about to transpire over the next two holes.
On the 19th hole of the match (the first hole at Dove Mountain) Dubuisson misclubbed on his approach shot and sent his ball clear over the back of the green, while Day was safely on the putting surface in two strokes.
Dubuisson’s ball came to rest right underneath a Teddy Bear Cholla cactus, which is a vicious plant that very few would even desire to walk near, let alone hit a golf ball out from underneath.
Dubuisson, most likely believing that this match was all but over while also not wanting to spend the rest of his evening picking cacti spikes out of his arms and legs, simply walked up and took a swipe at his ball.
Amazingly, Dubuisson’s ball landed on a desert rock and kicked up onto the green, coming to rest less than 10 feet from the hole.
A shocked Day would two-putt for his par while Dubuisson sunk his par putt.
The match then proceeded to a 20th hole (the ninth hole at Dove Mountain), where Dubuisson once again hit a wayward approach shot, this time into the desert left of the green.
Similar to the 19th hole, Dubuisson, who had yet to show even a smidgen of emotion or nerves during the match, calmly walked up to his ball and smacked it out to within 10 feet of the hole.
Day could do nothing else but laugh at what he had just witnessed for a third time in three holes while CBS announcer David Feherty said that he would be less surprised if Arnold Palmer came riding by on a scooter.
Day made his par, while Dubuisson converted on yet another miraculous up-and-down from the desert.
Dubuisson’s wayward shots would catch up to him two holes later when Day finished him off on the 22nd hole of the match, but not before Dubuisson’s desert heroics had earned a primetime spot on every sports highlight show from ESPN to the local news stations in his hometown of Cannes, France.
“Vic coming down the stretch was just unbelievable,” Day said after his round (via ASAP Sports) “I've never seen someone as young, apart from Jordan Spieth, and in the old days Tiger Woods, how clutch he was, especially out of the cactus.”
While Dubuisson may have become something of a household name on Sunday afternoon, this was not some form of Tin Cup-like miracle; this 23-year-old Frenchman is the real deal.
Just four years ago, Dubuisson become the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world following his victory at the 2009 European Amateur Championship.
He then turned pro immediately following the 2010 Open Championship, which he earned his way into by his European Amateur title win.
But it wasn’t until the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open last November that Dubuisson really began to appear on the radar of most ardent fans of the game.
Dubuisson managed to hold off the likes of Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to claim his first ever European Tour title.
Since the start of the 2013 European Tour season, Dubuisson has nine top-10 finishes and has missed just six cuts in 26 events.
Dubuisson entered last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as the 30th ranked player in the world and his runner-up finish has moved him up to 23rd in the World Golf Rankings.
Hideki Matsuyama and Spieth are the only two players younger than Dubuisson that are currently ranked higher in the World Golf Rankings.
Dubuisson already has a spot in the 2014 Masters and his World Golf Ranking position will likely earn him a place in the rest of the 2014 majors and WGCs.
On top of that, Dubuisson’s runner-up finish at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship has earned him a PGA Tour card for the 2015 season and has essentially locked up a spot for him on the European Ryder Cup team, making him the first Frenchman since Jean van de Velde in 1999 to compete in the biannual Ryder Cup matches.
At the young age of 23, Dubuisson is already an incredibly accomplished golfer. And while the mind-boggling desert recovery shots likely surprised even Dubuisson himself, no one should have been surprised to see this talented young golfer in the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play championship.
Dubuisson is a player that has been trending upwards for several years now and it is now clear that the sky is the limit for this mild mannered, and at times even shy, Frenchman.
Dubuisson is a name that you will certainly be seeing a lot more of in the coming weeks, months and years.
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